The Complete Guide to Motorcycle Fairings

The Complete Guide to Motorcycle Fairings

by Chris Rutter November 05, 2020

Motorcycle fairings have a major impact on the quality of ride you get out of your bike, providing aerodynamic benefits and engine protection. Several types of motorcycle fairings are available for riders to choose from, with different advantages coming with each type. Knowledgeable bikers will upgrade their motorcycle fairings or customize them to improve their bike's appearance and performance, making it so that their bike reaches its full potential while out on the road.

As you look to improve your bike with a new fairing, you should know what motorcycle fairings are and the ways they benefit riders. Additionally, it's a good idea to have a working knowledge of the different types of fairings available today, so you can pick the one that meets your preferences and needs best before you take your bike out on the road.

What Are Motorcycle Fairings?

Motorcycle fairings are panels installed onto the body of a motorcycle to help manipulate airflow. Essentially, a motorcycle fairing is a kind of shell placed over the frame of a bike. The type of fairing determines where on the body the fairing goes.

Their use often boils down to making bikes more aerodynamic. Fairings help to cut down on the air drag that occurs whenever a bike changes directions through a process called streamlining. Fairings are crafted with several different materials, such as polymers, aluminum, fiberglass and carbon fiber.

For race bikes, the aerodynamic nature of fairings makes them more suited for racing. At higher speeds, the need for aerodynamic features is even more pronounced, with the wind doing more to disrupt stability and the speed you can go. As air resistance, or drag, increases at the square of velocity, the engine needs to work that much harder to combat air pressure to keep the motorcycle going fast. A fairing helps combat some of that air pressure, resulting in the engine not having to work as hard to hit high speeds.

The aerodynamic nature of fairings can make race bikes more suited for racing

For sport-touring or touring bikes, fairings are still useful even at lower speeds. They manipulate airflow to provide these bikes a sort of pocket of calmer air that goes into the cockpit. Due to this less turbulent pocket of air, the rider doesn't have to use as much energy to keep their position while riding their motorcycle. This calmer air pockets give the biker a more comfortable ride, perfect for times when they want to ride their bike for long distances.

Why do bikers invest in bike fairings? [list]

Why Do Bikers Invest in Bike Fairings?

Motorcycle fairings offer a few different benefits that make them a popular choice for those looking to improve their bikes. From increasing the lifespan of their engine and lowering fuel costs to protecting your from wind and providing a smoother ride, bike fairings are a worthwhile investment for many reasons.

Here are some of the benefits of using bike fairings:

  • Less power needed for engine: Due to the aerodynamic nature of fairings, bikes with fairings can often reach and maintain higher speeds without having to generate as much power from the engine. A fairing helps your motorcycle not have to fight the wind, which results in a smoother ride that doesn't need as much power for you to cut through the air. Another advantage of not needing as much power is that your bike will be more fuel-efficient, helping you save fuel costs over the long-term.
  • Long-lasting engines: A direct result of not needing to use as much of the engine's power to reach higher speeds is the engine lasting longer. Due to the greater aerodynamics, your motorcycle can go faster at lower engine rpm. This lower engine rpm helps to increase the engine's life and can reduce repair costs.
  • Protection from winds: Many fairings will help to keep the wind off your hands and give you greater control over the bike. Fairings that have a windshield on them will also protect your face from windchill, prevent wind-produced hypothermia and shield you from airborne hazards.
  • Stabilize your bike: With the extra protection from wind, your bike will be more stable when you take it out on the road. Due to the aerodynamic nature of fairings, your motorcycle will be less likely to be affected by gusts of wind. If you've noticed that your seat or helmet shakes during a ride, a fairing can help reduce helmet buffering and turbulence that causes these effects.
  • Looks great: Fairings often give your motorcycle a sleek appearance. Various styles of bike fairings are available to help you find the one that meets your tastes. By customizing your bike and finding a fairing that you love, you'll impress other riders when you take your motorcycle out on the road. Additionally, fairings can come with other features like speaker systems and decals to make your bike look even cooler.
  • Shields you from insects and debris: Fairings make it so that the air surrounding the bike goes around or over you while you're riding. Due to the way fairings move the air, a high-pressure pocket forms around you. This high pressure and movement of air help to push dust, tiny airborne debris and bugs out of your way, providing a more comfortable ride.
  • Barrier from large debris: While the airflow that passes around the motorcycle due to the fairing can keeper smaller pieces of debris away from you, larger debris, like big stones, trash and blown tire material, can be a bigger challenge. These pieces of debris are too heavy to get moved away by the force of the wind. Fairings help to protect you by putting up an extra physical barrier between them and the debris that gets kicked up by other vehicles or the bike itself.
  • House electronic features on your bike: Fairings can often house a variety of electronic equipment. For example, audio systems can be integrated into fairings to protect the speakers and wirings from damage that can occur out on the road.

Types of Bike Fairings [list]

Types of Bike Fairings

Many bike fairings have been designed and produced since the motorcycle's invention. As you look for fairings to improve your riding experience and protect your motorcycle, you'll want to know the primary types of fairings available. The two main categories are front fairings and rear fairings.

Learn more about the main categories of motorcycle fairings and what they do:

Front Fairings

Front fairings are the most common type of fairing, with several different types available. The primary types of front fairings include full fairings, half fairings, quarter fairings and handlebar fairings.

1. Full Fairings

A full fairing is front-mounted and large, covering both the lower and upper parts of a bike. They're often confused with streamliner or cabin motorcycle fairings, which are fairings that fully or partially cover the whole motorcycle.

One of the benefits to full fairings is that they can provide extra protection to the chassis and engine during a crash, especially if the fairing takes the primary brunt of contact when the bike slides.

Additionally, the full fairings come with some performance advantages. They're often used in racing or supersport motorcycles due to them providing greater aerodynamic features. When the biker leans flat on the motorcycle to get behind the windscreen, they generate significantly less aerodynamic drag. Touring motorcyclists can also purchase full fairings designed to come with a higher windscreen to let the biker ride upright while still getting the aerodynamic benefits.

2. Half Fairings

Unlike the full fairings, half fairings only cover the upper section of the front of the motorcycle, leaving the lower part of motorcycle exposed. For riders who don't like the appearance of full fairings but still want protection from the wind and other elements, half fairings are a great choice.

Often, dual-purpose motorcycle owners use these fairings since they allow owners to add other pieces of equipment to the bike, like a bash plate or crash bars. A full fairing makes it impossible to add extra pieces of equipment and modifications to the lower half of the front of a motorcycle, so those who like to customize that area often prefer the half fairing.

Half fairings usually come with a windscreen and other aerodynamic qualities that help to protect riders and provide greater stability. Most of the time, the half fairing will also shield the motorcycle's gas tank, but it will not cover a significant portion of the engine casing.

3. Quarter Fairings

A quarter fairing, otherwise known as a bikini fairing or cafe fairing, is a minimal fairing that's fixed to the triple clamp and extends around the headlamp. This type of fairing also comes with a windscreen.

Since these are smaller than most fairings, they end well below a rider's head. Instead of providing a physical barrier to protect the biker, they use air deflection to protect the rider's head and chest. Though quarter fairings shield riders from wind, they don't provide as much protection when compared to full fairings or half fairings.

4. Handlebar Fairings

Sometimes referred to as headlamp fairings or headlight fairings, handlebar fairings are unlike other fairings since they're not fixed to the main chassis. Instead, a handlebar fairing that comes with a screen only attaches to a motorcycle's yokes or forks. These fairings cover the bike's instruments, headlight and parts of the handlebars, moving with the bar as the rider turns it.

Rear Fairings

Unlike front fairings, there aren't as many different categories of rear fairings available to consumers. Rear fairings, or tail fairings, are placed behind the rider and seat. In addition to covering the tail end of the bike, some rear fairings also cover the sides of the saddle and the area below it. A rear fairing can also provide extra storage space on the back of the motorcycle.

Some rear fairings, particularly those used on race or sports replica bikes that have dual seats, also feature tail humps. These tail humps either replace the passenger seat or cover it. They'll blend in with the side panels and tail units to make the motorcycle appear to be a single-seater, as well as provide additional streamlining.

The difference between inner and outer fairings

Difference Between Inner and Outer Fairings

When you look for Harley fairings, you may run across the terms inner fairings or outer fairings. Knowing the difference between the two can help you make an informed decision when investing in fairings. Learn more about how outside fairings and inside fairings differ:

Outer Fairings

Outer fairings refer to a part of the fairing that can be seen on the outside of the motorcycle. These outer fairings are typically made out of a hard plastic that provides a smooth shell over the exterior of the bike. The plastic is often varnished to add extra shine and make a bike look that much more attractive.

Besides the shine they add, outer fairings usually have holes in them that allow bikers to add mounting brackets and windshields to their motorcycle for extra protection. Since the outer fairing is exposed to the wind and creates wind diversion, so outer fairings are designed to increase fuel efficiency, improve the bike's aerodynamics, protect the rider's hands and reduce turbulence.

Inner Fairings

Inner fairings play a critical role in the fairing installation process, as they are the framework that ensures that the outer fairing connects to the motorcycle. They also have holes in them that go over the bike's gauges so the rider can still see the gauges clearly while on the road. Other holes in inner fairings attach the fairing to the frame of the motorcycle. Like exterior fairings, they're often made with plastic.

Get Harley-Davidson Motorcycle Fairings at Fat Head Cycles

Get Harley-Davidson Motorcycle Fairings at Fat Head Cycles

As a full-service Harley-Davidson customization and repair shop serving the D.C. metro area, Fat Head Cycles knows all things Harley. We offer several in-shop services, and we have a huge online inventory of products that can help you repair or customize your bike yourself. With all of the ways motorcycle fairings can benefit a Harley, we make sure to offer several fairing products and accessories.

Our online store has several fairing products, such as replacement Harley inner fairings and audio systems that come bundled with inner fairings as well. Harley-Davidson fairings also pair well with many additional products, such as fairing bags and speakers.

Check out our selection of aftermarket fairing products to find the right fit for your bike and personal taste. If you have any questions, contact us today to find out more about Harley-Davidson motorcycle fairings and fairing products that will improve your bike.

Chris Rutter
Chris Rutter


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